A school counselor at Roncalli, a Catholic high school in Indianapolis, appears to be on her way to being fired from her job.
Shelly Fitzgerald’s offense is that she’s married to another woman. She has been for the past four years. Before that – before the days when same-sex marriage was legal – the two of them had been committed to each other for 18 years.
She has worked at the school for 15 years.
When the school “discovered” Fitzgerald’s same-sex marriage – which she apparently had done nothing to hide – school officials called her in and gave her four choices: resign, dissolve her marriage, have her contract not renewed next year or be fired.
She now is on paid administrative leave.
Many students, parents and other school employees have rallied to her defense.
Before they stopped speaking altogether, officials for the archdiocese of Indianapolis said the reason they cracked down on Fitzgerald is that all school employees at a Catholic school must adhere to and support the teachings of the church, which say marriage must be between one man and one woman.
The language about the importance of church teachings took me back.
Twenty or so years ago, the paper where I worked sent me to South Bend to cover the firing of a popular basketball coach at St. Joseph High School.
Jody Martinez had come to the school, revived a moribund program and restored the team to winning ways.
Then he was cashiered.
His offense was that he had “left” the church.
Martinez had a troubled youth. His parents raised him as a Catholic, but he acknowledged he wasn’t a believer then. He believed in those days only in hanging out with his buddies and playing basketball.
It was when he went to college at Bethel, he said, that he became a believer. His college basketball coach and the woman who became his wife, Sonya, led him to discover his faith.
He became a devout Baptist.
That was reason enough for the Catholic church to fire him.
Martinez since has gone onto a successful career as a high school and college basketball coach. He now is women’s head basketball coach at Taylor University, a Christian school in northeastern Indiana. In 2014, he was inducted into the National Christian College Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
Clearly, the Catholic church was wise to keep young people away from him.
He might have led his players and students to prayer and reflection, and then where would they be?
Fitzgerald says she is a woman of devout faith. She also appears to be devoted to her family, to her friends and, yes, to her students.
They, in turn, seem devoted to her.
Defenders of the church’s position will argue that her marriage violates biblical injunctions.
The only outright biblical prohibitions against homosexuality are in the Old Testament, in Leviticus. Any references in the New Testament are much more ambiguous with meanings dependent on the interpretive translations of, in some cases, Greek translations of the original text.
The church, of course, is entitled, as we all are, to interpret the Bible in its own way.
But for those interpretations to seem like anything more than instances of selective mean-spiritedness, the church should enforce all church teachings with equal vigor.
That would require the firing of any church or Catholic school employees who are divorced, who use birth control, who have had abortions or have encouraged others to have abortions, who sometimes support the death penalty, who have committed adultery or had premarital sex, and, perhaps most important, have lied to aid the church’s persistent coverups of repeated child molestation.
Absent the will to do that, the church might be wise to look more closely at the parts of the Bible that counsel and encourage us to view each other as flawed and fallen creatures deserving of mercy and sympathy.
Fitzgerald says she’s not worried about herself. She’s worried about her students, particularly the LGBTQ ones who already feel neither the world nor their faith has any place for them.
No wonder so many students like her.
Her head and her heart are in the right place.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.